PEWire Live’s CFO/COO Summit Day 2: "Growing and evolving the COO role"


Day two of PEWire Live’s CFO/COO virtual summit featured discussions surrounding how to navigate Covid-related short-term liquidity risks, key cybersecurity and ESG considerations specifically for private equity, ESG reporting and setting the right KPIs, and how private equity professionals can evolve and cater to the demands of the COO role as we move into the new economy amid a post-pandemic recovery. 

The compelling topic of the many ways in which the COO role could and might develop, and the best ways of doing this emerged during the final day’s final session, where the discussion delved into how the panelists saw their role moving forward. 
According to Melissa Dickerson, Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of operations at San Francisco-based private equity firm Genstar Capital, one of the key points is to figure out what the differentiator for success is; the chemistry of the deal team with the management, having the same vision, allowing management to execute on that vision, and then supporting them through that. 

“Once you've implemented all that, how do you make that grow? And in private equity the question is always: how do you win these auctions?” she explained. 
Genstar’s Dickerson continued her line of thought: “Maybe the secret sauce is simply the human being. That’s the differentiator – it's how they think, how they interact with other people and how that makes them more successful versus others, and that’s hard to replicate.” 

Cayman Islands-based Cassandra Powell, Managing Director at The Harbour Trust Co Ltd, highlighted how one of the key characteristics of a CEO is their ability to be flexible, not only in mindset but also how that translates into the firm’s approach and how it deals with staff, with outsourced service providers and the like. 

“But because the private equity industry is constantly changing – whether it's restructurings, ad hoc reporting, costs or regulatory demands, how important do you think it is for you to be flexible?” she asked the rest of the panel. 

“I’ve always viewed change as an opportunity, and I get excited by change. I’m not threatened, I’m super open – I love trying new things, I love trying new processes: if it doesn’t work, let’s quit that and start something new,” responded Dickerson. “Having that flexibility and openness, and the ability to embrace change really allows you to grow and evolve," she added. 

Neil Brown, Senior Partner and Chief Risk Officer at Earth Capital, also relayed how important it is to understand what you're doing, how you're doing it; where you're doing it, when you’re implementing changes. 

“And you need to either decide to carry on the same way or do something different. They are both decisions and they both have implications. So it's important to be flexible enough to realise: we can't do it that way any longer, we need to work out how to go forward from here.” The event, which featured a wide array of topics related to the role of CFO/COOs, ended on Thursday.